SANG and the Land Trust: What you need to know

12th August 2020

In the second of two blogs we sat down with Land Trust Development Officer Joe Heath to discuss the Land Trust’s role in the management of SANG.

Joe, can you tell us a bit more about strategic SANG?

If a SANG has capacity for more than one development it is referred to as a ‘strategic’ SANG, as it can act strategically and allocate capacity to multiple developments within a specified catchment area. The catchment will depend upon the size of the SANG. Ash Green Meadows for example, is a 24 hectare strategic SANG and so it can allocate its capacity to developments within a 5 km catchment.

If clients were to transfer a strategic SANG to a local authority, then it is likely that they would relinquish all control over the allocation of capacity and the commercial value that it has.

By transferring the strategic SANG to the Land Trust, clients retain all control and commercial benefit of the capacity and are able sell capacity on a per-dwelling tariff. This is the reason Bewley Homes chose to transfer the 24 hectare homes Ash Green Meadows to the Land Trust. Bewley had surplus capacity to their needs and are now selling capacity off to third parties within a 5km catchment.

The responsibility of allocating capacity remains with the client and it is known that tariffs in certain Boroughs/Districts can reach up to £8-10k per dwelling. If you consider that a hectare can allocate 52 dwellings, a SANG becomes a valuable asset with a potential worth of over £400k per hectare.

What is the Land Trust’s role with SANGs?

The Land Trust can offer all services required for SANG from concept and design, management plans, capital works and in-perpetuity management.
Our main role is to manage the land in line with the management plan and the funding in line with our investment strategy. We currently have over 200 hectares of SANG with over 400 hectares of pipeline SANGs.

Natural England has approved Land Trust as an ‘appropriate body’ to acquire and manage SANG in perpetuity and this approval isn’t given lightly. This title is granted because our extensive risk management and safeguards give Natural England and local authorities the confidence that we are a long-term management body that will ensure that each SANG we take on will be delivered in perpetuity.

We appoint local delivery bodies as ‘Managing Partners’ to undertake the day to day management of our sites. Examples include Surrey Wildlife Trust, Deadwater Valley Trust and Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership.
Our approach to SANGs goes above and beyond the requirements of the management plans. We deliver our charitable objectives which ensures that a SANG does far more than protect designated sites.

What experience does the Land Trust have of managing SANGs?

My go-to example for our experience of managing SANGs in Wellesley Woodlands – the largest SANG in the country. It’s a flagship project that has gained considerable status due to its scale and how it goes above and beyond the requirements of a typical SANG.

The Land Trust undertook a £1.25M capital works project creating a 110 hectare SANG from derelict woodland in 18 months. Wellesley has now been open for five years and is managed by two rangers funded by the Land Trust.
Wellesley is a great case study for how SANGs can deliver social value. For example, in 2019/20 Wellesley Woodlands delivered health care cost savings of over £200k and the community engagement had an economic value of over £75k.

You can see the real life benefits that the site is delivering when you attend community events or walk the site and see dens that have been built by children who have engaged with nature rather than played computer games in their rooms.

It’s also important to remember that SANG is a term used for planning purposes. As soon as it comes to the Land Trust; it’s a site like all of our others, one that is managed for community benefit and recreation and we have over 15 years’ experience of managing these sites with over 2,000 hectares of land.

Wellington Statue at Wellesley Woodlands

Why should someone choose the Land Trust?

If I’m honest, from my own experience developers seem to choose Land Trust for commercial reasons:

• The Land Trust endowment model is considerably more cost effective than other funding models offered by alternative bodies e.g. commuted sums
• The SANG has surplus capacity and by transferring the SANG to LT, it ensures that the commercial benefit of this capacity stays with the client
• The added benefit is our practical advice on SANG designs and management plans which provide economies of scale to capital works and long term funding.

A Land Trust SANG is more than just a dog-walking site, it’s a community asset that positively contributes to the lives of the visitors that use it.

I encourage our current and previous clients to consider the implications of transferring a SANG to the Land Trust. Yes, you may have saved or made money, but most importantly you have gifted a community asset that will deliver Social Value and which ticks the ESG box for investors.

What does the future look like for the Land Trust and SANGs?

The Land Trust is playing an ever-increasing role with SANGs and as they are instigated more widely across the Country, I can only see our role expanding in the long term. With a new aspiration to undertake capital works I expect we will be engaged on SANGs a lot earlier too, which is always good.

We are currently on track to acquire a further five SANGs by the end of the financial year. Hopefully this blog will lead to a few more acquisitions in future years.

Biodiversity Net Gain and Nutrient Neutrality are emerging hot topics at the moment and have similarities to the SANG model. We are currently working with developers at Group and Regional level to discuss strategic delivery of BNG and Nutrient Neutrality and expect we will play a similar role with these environmental sites, as we do with SANG.

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Ash Green Meadows SANG


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